Drug Church - Cheer (Cover Artwork)

Drug Church

Cheer (2018)

Pure Noise Records

Albany, NY’s Drug Church return with the acerbically titled Cheer out on Pure Noise and is lead singer Patrick Kindlon’s second project of 2018 following Self Defense Family’s Have You Considered Punk Music. Drug Church’s sonic palette blends Joy Division post-punk miserablism with the sludgy chug of 90s era Pacific Northwest (think Tad and Seaweed). Drug Church’s total cynical aesthetic reminds me of Pennsylvania’s kindred delinquents in Pissed Jeans. Cheer is an album-long vent against crummy jobs, degenerate friends, and dire financial situations brought on by a lack of motivation to try in the face of such defeating circumstances. However, it is also the most accessible album of the band’s career which Kindlon chalks up to having more money available to spend on the recording process.

In a discussion with Noisey, Kindlon intimates that the sound of the record is slicker due to “multiple members of the band [being] fans of that type of post-grunge, major-label shit-rock” that rose during “the post-Nirvana signing binge.” Despite Kindlon’s acrimony, the band sounds hearty and committed, and the crunchy sound fits well with his roughhewn barking vocals.

“Grubby” is an angry shrug of frustration at the inability to “form adult connections” due to financial instability when “all you’ve got in your pockets is handshakes and lies.” “Avoidarama” begins with a lurching distorted bassline and functions as a sardonic ode to depression and finding ways to circumvent the entreaties of well-meaning friends. The band suggest that with “bitter thoughts invading” it’s tempting to spend a “laptop night complaining” rather than faking the effort to continue relationships with old friends. “Weed Pin” recounts a bumbling protagonist’s terrible day at a “shit labor” “$12.50 an hour” lab job where a hapless slip in dress shoes and a damaged petri dish destroys “a decade of collected data” and sees the “new guy dragged off of the premises.”

The album isn’t an entire exercise in misanthropy. “Unlicensed Guidance Counselor” is a plea to a friend skirting the boundaries of destructive, harmful behavior that threatens to shatter the well-being of those around him. The band argues that “life is [a learning] process not product” and taking punches leads you to “break some bones [but the healing period results in having] them set proper.” “Unlicensed Hall Monitor” takes on internet trolls with “a search history darker than a sea trench” “who wants to be your boss, [but] can’t handle his shit.” The band cautions that such bottom feeders dabbling in “a group chat with klansmen” will meet their reckoning inevitably and end up “the one twisting in the wind.”

In contrast to the surrounding lyrical sarcasm and pessimism, Cheer is an earnest stab at hooky, well-crafted 90s-indebted punk-tinged alterna-grunge. Musically, it’s similar to Teenage Wrist’s Chrome Neon Jesus but is distinguished from that referential album by Kindlon’s bark and snarl. It’s an album that makes misery relatable, and the band’s stomp and trudge is the rewarding cathartic release.